Abstract

By reading Księgi Jakubowe [The Books of Jacob, 2014]1 as the story of the development and subsequent decline of the Frankist “discursive revolution” started by Jacob Frank, this article presents Tokarczuk’s novel as a unique archeology of modernity—the moment of intense anxiety and clash between the old and the new, between metaphysics and reason. In doing so, it suggests that language in Tokarczuk’s novel is an “act” whose causative and protean dimension generates tensions in the field of power and shapes religious, social, and political realities. By engaging Gershom Scholem’s writings on the Judaic messianic tradition and “messianic activism,” Agata BielikRobson’s “cryptotheologies,” Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of carnival, and Bruno Latour’s reflections on religious language whose translational energy has the potential to generate new forms of human experience, the article draws attention to ambivalence at the core of the Frankist discourse — on the one hand, the Frankist discourse presented in The Books of Jacob enlivens, emancipates and seduces its followers and on the other hand, it isolates, terrorizes and intimidates them. By examining the ambivalent figure of Frank in Tokarczuk’s novel as a heretic, fabulator, translator and, finally, an ideologue, this article traces a gradual movement away from the anarchic and subversive currents that gave rise to the Frankist discursive revolution, toward dogmatic and authoritarian rigidity that led to its fall.

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